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Wings Over Wick
Wilma L Hall (nee Dewar), Belmont, Durham
When I was stationed in Wick the RAF used the school. Early in the war years it housed the Operations Room, but when I was there in 1943 there was a complete Operations Block among the main station buildings, and the school was then used for offices such as the Sports Office. The Operations Block, which is where I worked, contained the Operations Room, the Wireless Cabin (the room in which wireless operators worked was always called a "cabin"), Meteorological Office, Intelligence Office, Signals Officer's Office, Teleprinter Room and Telephone Exchange.
Wireless operators were in very short supply at that time so we were kept very busy and worked hard seven days a week on a three-watch shift system. We never had a day off, but I loved my work and didn't mind the long and often unsociable hours. Our job as Wireless Operators involved receiving and sending signals in Morse code, often directly to and from the planes when they were out on operations attacking enemy shipping or hunting U-boats. The messages were in code which was changed each day so that the enemy would not be able to understand them, and those that came in were given to an officer who would decipher them and pass them onto who ever they concerned.
During my time two squadrons of Beaufighters, numbers 144 and 404 (Canadian) were stationed on the airfield. When they flew on operations they used to take with them carrier pigeons and when the crews came to the Operations Block to debriefed for their mission they would leave the pigeons in their little carrying boxes on our wireless tables while they received their orders. The birds would pop their heads out and coo to us! They usually had a name on their box - Margy or Betty or Mary or whatever-named after wives and girlfriends back home. There was even an airman on the camp who had the special job of Pigeon Keeper. Those two squadrons left Wick in May 1944, and afterwards the main squadron was No 519.
Food in camp was not very palatable, so we spent most of our pay (three shillings and four pence a day for the LACW/W/Op) on eating out in the town, where food was fairly plentiful. There was a cafe in the Square where one could get tea and a big plate of scones with lashings of butter for nine pence (about 3.5 new pence). Other cafes were the Victory and the Bon Accord. I have fond memories of my time at Wick.